The Animator

Story, layout, painting, styling—these are creative jobs, difficult and rewarding and interesting, but essentially concerned with solving problems in the most artistic manner. Only animation is magical. This is its appeal. The creative artist can make something here that exists and breathes and thinks for itself, which gets back to our test of all great art: does it live? Techniques can be copied, mechanics can be duplicated, and even the drawings themselves traced, but the spark of life comes only from the animator. His taste, judgment, and ideas are unique with him and his animation. It is a highly individual effort.

As a person, the animator may be shy or introverted, arrogant or domineering, quiet or pensive; it no longer matters. Personality traits fade away as an artist enters the private world of the drawings on his board. Through the characters he creates, he can be adventurous, crafty, funny, evil, lovable, athletic; he can be a bird, a flower, asnowflake, a shaft of light. This is a very attractive prospect to most of us.

At times his scenes appear to be controlled too much by others; the design of the character, its personality, the layout, the amount of footage are all determined by someone else. However, as a contributing member of the group, the animator undoubtedly will receive more stimulation than restriction from this process.

While the layout man was thinking primarily of storytelling and design and mood when he suggested the locale and the props, he undoubtedly had strong ideas of how the character should act as well. Equally strong ideas were held by the storyman, the director, and everyone else who had contributed to the scene up to this point. Now the animator must build on the work and the ideas of all these people, selecting and discarding carefully, sifting and judging, suggesting and changing, until he has found a pattern of action that is just right for him. He must understand it and feel it; it must be his own, regardless of where the ideas came from. It is this personal thinking of the animator that makes the scene good, not the reliance on others to tell him what to do.

This does not mean that he is obliged to change the business or feel compelled to think of something completely new. First, he must listen and try to appreciate the values of the scene as it stands. More than one top animator has ruined excellent story material by insisting on animating a scene when he does not understand the humor in the story situation or feel the action.

The animator works back and forth through his scene until he has made the drawings that control the movement. He might have to make a drawing for every frame of film, or his key drawing might occur only every foot, depending on the particular action. The number of drawings is immaterial, because as an artist he would be drawing day after day in any job he has taken. Here, his drawings happen to be in continuity and related in a very special way. He discards far more than he keeps in his attempt to capture on paper his feelings about the scene, so his concern is not how many drawings he has made, but how well they depict the vision in his mind.

Glen Vilppu Animal DrawingsGlen Keane AnimatorThe Fox And The Hound Art

The idea for this scene in Vance Gerry develops the The Fox and the Hound situation in his story sketch. comes from an inspirational sketch by Mel Shaw of the foxes meeting in a romantic setting.

Mel Shaw Disney

Rough layout of the specific scene by Don Griffith shows the approximate positions of the characters in a close-up of the setting ,

Animator Glen Keane fits his action into this set-up.

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Glen Keane

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